Biomorphism and Noguchi: Not Your Average Coffee Table

Many designers argue that the sofa is the most important furniture piece in the living room, but if you really think about it, your coffee table is equally integral to your home, if not even more so . A living space without one seems bereft. Sans table, there is no conversation “pit”, no central force that gathers the masses, and, of course, there is no place to put your coffee.

It’s true. A good coffee table can bring the family together, hold an assortment of beverages, books and vases and, if designed well, it can also look like a piece of art itself.

Enter Isamu Noguchi.

Before the mid-century modern movement, most coffee tables served their purpose as vessels for holding drinks, but they were lacking in form and style. That was until Noguchi. With him, the whole concept of what a coffee table could be, could do, and could look like, changed forever.

Designed in 1939 as a commission project for the president of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, A. Conger Goodyear, Noguchi’s original table was made of rosewood and glass and used Noguchi’s now famous biomorphism technique to create a structure that was simple, clean, and organic. So impressive was his first effort that when George Nelson and the design team at Herman Miller saw it, they asked Noguchi to create a similar table for their company. They asked that he keep the principles of his original design and develop a table that had a freeform sculptural base, biomorphic glass and the ability to adapt to both home and professional environments.

Several years later, Noguchi delivered in spades with a work of art that was actually described as such.  Specifically, the 1947 Herman Miller catalogue described the Noguchi Coffee Table as “sculpture-for-use” and “design-for-production.” The accolades were well deserved as there had not been a coffee table design with so much attention to detail and sculptural form before.

The table famously was designed with a solid walnut base featuring two identical carved pieces connected to each other by a pivot rod. The wood pieces appeared to flow in and out of each other seamlessly, like a living organism in nature, and were free of extraneous bolts, joints and screws. More importantly, the table was durable and could withstand an immense amount of weight, pressure and “hard knocks” in general. To this day, its durability is evidenced by the large number of existing original editions in mint condition.

The design was revolutionary because the table essentially consisted of only 3 pieces: a free-form glass top with flat polished edges, and a tripod made from the interlocking carved walnut pieces that provided the sturdy base. The table ended up being one of Herman Miller’s most successful and sought after designs, and nowadays, is considered a collectable – for good reason.

Considered one of the most original and functional pieces from the mid-century modern era, the Noguchi Coffee Table still looks fresh, modern and innovative decades after its release. You won’t find another table with more structure or character and, if you have one, it will certainly become the focal point of your room.

Rove Concepts understands the form, function and integral awareness to detail in this timeless piece, and we have gone to great lengths to ensure that our Noguchi reproduction follows every design detail of the original whether it be the hand-crafted, premium grade wood, or the finite measurement of the curved edges in the base and glass-plate top. To see our stunning reproduction, and other Noguchi-inspired products, click here:


Posted in Great design, Latest trends.

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